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The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas – Gertrude Stein

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas – Gertrude Stein

       The object from Special Collections that I have chosen to analyze is the copy of Gertrude Stein’s most famous book, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. Much of what interested me about the artifact lies with its design and presentation. I was intrigued to see that the design of the cover was Stein’s famous poetic line, “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose,” embossed onto the front in a circle to emphasize its circular reasoning. However, that line is not from this book, but one of Stein’s previous poetic collections. I would theorize that the designers chose that famous line in order to inspire name recognition among readers. The photographs interspersed with the text were another facet of the design that i found enjoyable. They certainly reflected the time period of the book; they were all obviously in black and white, and the dress worn by the people depicted made clear the era as well. Additionally, there were photos emphasizing Stein’s connection to Pablo Picasso. One photo shows a wall in her apartment that was hung with various works of his, and another shows Picasso himself standing with another of Gertrude and Alice’s friends. Another aspect of the times shown in the photos is the lack of noticeable affection between Gertrude and Alice in the photos; had the book been released today, the photos selected might make clearer the romantic status of their relationship. All of these things give strong support to details of Gertrude and Alice’s lives as represented in the text, and complement the text in a way that enriches the experience of reading it as opposed to viewing it as a more condensed and impersonal PDF.